Category Archives: Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

Storytime Guerrilla of the Month Archives

You may remember that we used to have a Storytime Guerrilla of the Month as a way to highlight some of the great work that our youth services peers are doing around the world. Lately, this feature has become less of a priority for us, but we still want to be sure that you can access the archives anytime. Please do re-visit these posts, as you can find them anytime under the new Storytime Guerrilla of the Month category linked to the right.

Storytime Guerrilla of the Month Archives

Laura Arnhold
Kristen Bodine
Tabin Crume
Kevin Delecki
Brian Hart
Jerri Heid
Dana Horrocks
Lucy Iraola
Lindsey Krabbenhoft
Mary Kuehner
Kirby McCurtis
Joel Nichols
Brooke Rasche
Rick Samuelson
Dana Sheridan
Soraya Silverman-Montano

Meet Soraya Silverman-Montano, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Storytime Underground community that our colleagues are often engaged in some really awesome projects. One such colleague is this month’s Storytime Guerrilla of the Month, Soraya Silverman-Montano, who recently completed her stint as an Emerging Leader on behalf of ALSC. Ninjas, meet Soraya.


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Like many an awesome youth services librarian, Soraya wears many different types of hats, both metaphorical and literal.

Since being (thankfully) forced to volunteer by her incredible mom at the age of 14 (and, shortly thereafter, that service grew to love), Soraya has been working at the library for ten years and is currently a Youth Services Librarian with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. According to Soraya: “I can honestly say from the bottom of my geeky heart that I love everything about it! I enjoy making explosions and slime, being ridiculously silly every week while sharing my favorite stories, and also coordinating the occasional teen program to express my geekiness to likeminded individuals at this awesome awesome job!” Outside of work, Soraya considers herself a pretty cool wife, friend, daughter, and sister of five girls; a gamer, crafter and unique chef; a mommy of three doggy fur babies; and of course, an avid reader of mostly YA fiction, manga and comics.


Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for your storytimes?
Soraya: The #1 rule for me when picking books and activities is that they above all else: Must. Be. Fun! #2 is that I have to be able to get the kids to be engaged and involved in the story or game, and the #3 rule is that I generally should be able to make a fool of myself because if you can’t laugh at yourself then who are the kids gonna laugh at/with? 😉
I pick stories with songs the kids can sing with me, ones with repetition or rhymes that they can read along with. I do flannels and fingerplays with interactive songs or pieces the kids can pull off the board, or hide and go seek, or matching games.
And if a book/activity doesn’t inherently have an interactive portion I make it fun and interactive by asking questions throughout the entire story: Would you be friends with a crocodile? What if it was a nice crocodile? Who here likes apples? I love apples! You guys have good taste, literally! What do you think’s going to be in the box? A banana? A sad clown? A MONSTER IN HIS UNDERPANTS?!


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?
Soraya: Flannels. I love flannels. They are so great at reeling a fussy crowd back in and at getting chatty parents to participate and focus back on storytime. If you have a small storytime that day and the group isn’t engaging with you, you can get kids excited by having them come up and pull pieces off the board.
And flannels are so diverse! I have ones that tie into fingerplays, some that are alternate ways of reading a well-known story, matching games, and hide and go seek games. I have some that teach ABCs, colors, counting, emotions or shapes; anything is possible!


Q: If you could travel through time, what one piece of storytime advice would you give your new librarian self?
Soraya: Don’t stress so much! You have to find your own groove. You don’t have to do the same outline as Lily or the same songs as Marshall or themes like Robin or books that Ted reads. If a kid is screaming his head off and can’t sit still, it’s probably not because of you and just because they’re having a rough day. If you have a tough crowd who won’t engage, you’ll learn techniques to get them to. Look for new ideas from coworkers, online, from 3rd parties like classrooms, there’s always more to learn. And as you learn, storytime will become easier and easier. You just have to give yourself a break and a chance to grow into that awesome storytime guru you will be.


Q:  When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…
Soraya: The resource I use most and that I am extremely grateful for is my coworkers. They are a plethora of knowledge about any aspect of a storytime you can think of, and we’re always bouncing ideas and thoughts off of one another. Plus, it’s equally beneficial to see that skill in practice, to shadow them and see exactly how they incorporate what you’re trying to learn in person. That doesn’t mean you have do exactly as they do, but you’ll at least have some ideas to think about how you want to incorporate it into your storytime.
I also use Storytime Katie (who I had the pleasure of briefly meeting at Annual this year which was awesome) for theme ideas. We have similar tastes in books and it helps me brainstorm other books that go along with whatever theme I have for the week. Plus she posts her crafts ideas, too, which is fabulous.
And I am a member of the Storytime Underground Facebook group where I’m able to post any questions, stories, or even just geeky things I’d like to share with everyone. It’s an excellent resource to use to get a variety of ideas from other Youth Services folk around the country and even the world. Social media rocks the socks!


Q: You recently “emerged” as an ALA Emerging Leader. Can you share some information about your project? How has it made you see your youth services work differently?
Soraya: Our Emerging Leaders group was tasked from ALSC, the Association of Library Service to Children, to do research that would lead to developing a Youth Services Value Calculator, which essentially breaks down each service we provide to children, parents, schools, etc. and assigns a monetary value to that service. We quickly realized, though, that this was a daunting feat; how can you assign a price to something invaluable, such as establishing a love for reading and instilling early literacy skills at an early age so that they have school readiness and will hopefully be more successful and ambitious in their pursuit of education?
We determined that a Value Calculator would be insufficient as a measurement tool because it is only a snapshot of what services are provided for a brief moment in time. Our group felt that a more thorough and all-encompassing tool would need to be developed for Youth Services staff to show their value and how important providing our resources is–so that we can better advocate for ourselves to administration, legislation, the public, whomever. Ultimately, we voiced our conclusion that there should be an ALSC taskforce or some other entity dedicated to researching and finding relative concrete value for our services in order to create such a tool. We were ecstatic to find out that such a taskforce has been created, and we’re eager to see their results and how this project will evolve!
This Emerging Leaders project was eye-opening in that I realized there aren’t a whole lot of tools out there specific to Youth Services that can easily convey to the public just how crucial we are to the children and families we serve and to society as a whole. Now it may be a stretch to say that librarians are responsible for creating a more educated, open minded public, but who’s to say that we don’t have an important role in doing so? If we can reach kids while they’re young, or at any age in between, and help them to love reading and learning, and that in turn leads them to value education, pursue higher degrees, think for themselves and continue to learn, wouldn’t that lead to a more educated society? 🙂 I know now just how necessary advocating for Youth Services is, and that we need to take every opportunity to make sure that everyone else, too, realizes how important libraries, Youth Services, and reading are to help the children and people of our community shine even greater than they already do.

Meet Lucy Iraola, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

Fav book 2013Ninjas, allow me to introduce Lucy Iraola. Lucy completed her Masters of Library and Information Sciences at the University of Denver in 2013. She is currently working as a Bilingual Spanish YS Librarian with the new and exciting Every Child Book-Bag Rotation program. She is passionate about libraries, diversity, outreach and providing excellent early literacy education and resources for children and their families. Lucy was born and raised in Puerto Rico where she received her Bachelors of Arts in Communications from Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in San Juan, PR. We’re glad to have her share her expertise and perspective here this month!


Q: What’s your favorite thing to do with kids in storytime, and why do you do it?

Lucy: Without a doubt, my favorite thing to do in storytime is singing. I LOVE to sing! I mostly like fun songs that people have to act out and dance! I try to have at least two songs that are fun with lots of actions and movements. I believe music is extremely powerful, it just brings people and kids together. The best thing about it is that it makes you feel good because it lowers stress and I think that’s awesome. There’s so many positives that comes from music, singing rhymes and action songs and research proves it. Children are happier after singing. And, who doesn’t like to see those cute faces smiling, playing and laughing during storytime? That’s what it’s all about, making kids happy and involved.


Q: How do you go about continuing to develop your storytime skills?

Lucy: I like to read library magazines to see what other libraries and librarians are trying and what’s working well for them, besides learning about new picture book titles that I would like to order and try later. I try to attend conferences, webinars and workshops whenever I can to keep myself up to date on early literacy research and to network with other librarians who share some of my early childhood interests. I’m also fortunate to know so many wonderful youth services librarians from all the library systems I’ve worked with that I always can call for advice if I need to. Lastly, I check out blogs and some bilingual websites that can help me plan my storytimes whether I’m doing them in English, Spanish or even in another language.


Q: What’s been inspiring your library work lately?

Lucy: The relationships I have with my co-workers who I also consider my friends is very inspiring. We are always ready to share a new book, rhyme or song, idea or resource, etc. It’s great to collaborate and work together on new projects or something related to storytime and improving our parents messages. One of the greatest thing about our profession, is that there’s always something new we can learn and try. Whether is something about STEM, the Sensory Friendly storytimes, using technology, there’s so much to keep ourselves busy.

I’m excited about the beginning of the school year as well. It’s where I’m most active presenting storytimes and providing early literacy workshops outside the library building. I manage the Every Child Book-Bag program, it is a bag rotation program where we provide age and culturally appropriate children’s books in many languages to approximately 8,000 children in Multnomah County. We partner with child care organizations like Head Starts that help us bring books to children that are at risk of not having books in their homes.


Q: You were nominated for Guerrilla of the Month specifically for your expertise and experience offering Spanish storytimes. What would you say to library staff and administrators who are hesitant to offer multilingual programs for young children and their families?

Lucy: Considering that providing library service to all the people is at the core of what library service is all about, public libraries ought to think about the importance of providing equal library services to all children and their families no matter the language. It is no secret that the US is becoming more racially and ethnically diverse, therefore public libraries need to start thinking about ways to keep up with new demands of a growing community. It’s important that every public library look at their community demographics and see what are the common languages spoken around the community they serve and take action. Sometimes libraries and even some librarians are intimidated to serve diverse language groups, mainly because they think they have to speak the language in order to be successful, fortunately that’s not the true. Most librarians feel afraid to try something new when they don’t know, not realizing that often times we have more in common than we think. Read and educate yourself about the changing demographics and new trends. Even if you start small, your multilingual library patrons will appreciate your efforts in providing something that’s meant for them.

These are my main tips when thinking about providing multicultural storytimes or programs:

  • Read a good reference book about providing services in other languages
  • Find community leaders that can help you promote library programs and services — for many diverse language groups is all about that personal relationship
  • Make an effort to learn a few words and phrases in the language you’re trying to reach and serve
  • Make outreach a priority and connect with your community
  • Have a budget for multicultural library materials, for marketing and publicity
  • When possible hire bilingual, bicultural staff to represent your community, if that’s not possible get library volunteers who can do storytimes and help you promote new library programs you’re trying
  • Find other library professionals you can contact for support and advice, network is key
  • And finally, always smile, be welcoming and friendly – some people didn’t grow up with libraries so there’s a lot that they don’t know and need to learn


Q: How did you come to be a storytime practitioner?

Lucy: When I moved to Oregon, I visited the library regularly and was interested in volunteering there. Later, through a friend, I got a part-time position at the Hillsboro Public Library, Shute Park branch working as the Libros (Library Outreach in Spanish) Coordinator. This position allowed me to present Spanish storytimes and connect with the Latino community. It was during that time that I realized how much I loved reading to the children and singing songs to them and their families in Spanish. That job prepared me to apply for a Library Outreach position with Washington County Cooperative Library Services (WCCLS) in a program named the ¡Sí program! that was funded by an LSTA grant. While in that position, I had to visit family child care providers who were not registered with the state and provide informal workshops and storytime trainings in their homes with the children in their care. Due to the success of the Si program and all the people we were reaching, WCCLS decided to make my position a regular position adding more responsibilities, like providing early literacy trainings, supporting the library branches with cultural programs and collection development and by continuing to do storytimes outside and inside the library buildings. I was then providing storytimes at migrant camps, in different child care centers and Head Starts and partnering with different community organizations. I worked with WCCLS for seven years and even though I didn’t have a library degree I was working as an outreach bilingual librarian. I was attending library conferences and trainings and was able to increase my knowledge about early literacy, outreach to diverse communities and effective storytime best practices. I took the Every Child Ready to Read trainings, both the 1st and 2nd edition and the Early Words training. I also became a member of PLA, OLA and Reforma and started connecting with other librarians who had similar interest in providing culturally appropriate Spanish storytimes. I was extremely happy in my job, and then I got the opportunity of a lifetime! I applied for a fellowship at the University of Denver in Colorado to do a MLIS with a specialization on Early Childhood Librarianship. I was one of 10 fellows that received the fellowship! While in Colorado I had the great pleasure to work with two library systems, Arapahoe Library District and Jefferson County Public Library. I am very grateful for the time I was in Colorado and all the people who helped me during some difficult times there, but the reality is that I missed Oregon and my friends too much so I decided to move back. I received a job offer from Multnomah County Library and just recently had my first year anniversary. Life is good!



Meet Brian Hart, Storytime Guerrilla of the Month

A passionate youth services librarian, with a winning smile to boot! [photo courtesy of the Emerging Leaders profiles for American Libraries Magazine.]

A passionate youth services librarian, with a winning smile to boot! [photo courtesy of the Emerging Leaders profiles for American Libraries Magazine.]

Ninjas, we’d like you all to meet Brian Hart, an outstanding youth services librarian and the July Storytime Guerrilla of the Month. We met Brian at Guerrilla Storytimes at ALA in Las Vegas last month, where he shared some great storytime skills and perspective. Brian is a Children’s Services Manager at the Beatties Ford Regional Library of Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, and he was a 2014 Emerging Leader. We’re pleased as punch that he agreed to share his awesome as a guerrilla of the month.


Q: What’s your philosophy for choosing books and activities for storytime?

Brian: It often depends on the season, theme or objective of the program, but I try pay particular attention to the books’ vocabulary and illustrations when selecting which ones I will share during storytimes. I like for children to hear new words and expand their vocabulary so the manner in which an author writes and structures their sentences and stories is important to me.

Similarly, I feel that books are also a great way to expose children to art, so when choosing books I try to select those with awe-inspiring pictures that children and parents might connect with and appreciate.


Q: How do you make sure your storytimes are accessible to different audiences?

Brian: Accessibility and appropriateness are two facets of storytimes that are particularly important to me. I try to make sure that program offerings are varied, both in terms of the time of day and target audiences. I like to offer storytimes in the mornings, evenings and weekends to ensure that all persons have an opportunity to attend regardless of their work schedules or other commitments.

I also like to make sure our storytimes and other program offerings are varied enough to include something for all ages, interests and abilities. For instance, at the branch where I serve as Children’s Services Manager we offer a variety of preschool storytimes, baby storytimes, sensory programs for children who are “differently-abled” and book clubs focusing on a variety of themes and genres. While I certainly do not lead every program, I always encourage and appreciate my team making sure that no child’s needs or interest are ignored – and they have yet to disappoint!


Q: What have you learned through your storytime experience that you wish you had known when you started out?

Brian: With experience I have become more comfortable merely being myself during storytimes. When I first began leading storytimes, I felt that in order for the storytime to “measure up” to the children/adults’ expectations I had to follow a script/routine that they were accustomed to based on what they’d experienced in the past. However, I’ve grown to trust in my own abilities/knowledge and along the way have I have also realized that both children and adults appreciate variety.

Therefore, as opposed to sticking so closely to a “script” that may include alternating between a book and song, I now deviate from the script regularly and often allow the audience to share in the process – either by encouraging them to request songs they’d like to sing as a group, help “freestyle” finger plays or share anecdotes/stories themselves as I offer “suggestions” to the parents on how they might be able to simulate the experience and have success reading with their child at home.


Q: What one storytime skill are you really great at? Okay, you can share two things.

Brian: One of the more significant aspects of our roles as librarians is our responsibility to inform, connect and inspire. In addition to helping children develop early literacy skills, storytimes present an opportunity for us to share tools and literacy tips with parents, caregivers and childcare providers. In my experience I’ve found adult participants to be really appreciative and even inspired when they are given new pointers about relating to their child while sharing books.

Therefore, I like to take the time to engage and connect with the adults present during my storytimes and feel I have developed somewhat of a niche for doing so. I sometimes accomplish this through the welcome activities or even casual conversation prior to the program, which I use as an opportunity to connect and relate to parents and set the tone for storytime as a shared experience between them and their child. I’d like to think that I’ve become pretty good at this aspect of storytime and have established a really good rapport with the parents.

Also, as with most storytellers and children librarians, I love to incorporate music into the process. I enjoy writing my own songs, “tweaking” popular storytime sing-a-longs and using the instrumentals to pop, r&b or jazz songs that hopefully both parents and children will identify with and enjoy. This has also been an effective means of encouraging the parents to embrace and participate in the storytime process with their children.


Q: You’ve recently “emerged” from ALA’s Emerging Leader program. What can you share about your EL project? How might it connect to youth services?

Brian: The Emerging Leader project that I worked on was centered around the Librarians Build Communities initiative, which was a project that began many years ago and focused primarily on pairing interested library professionals with libraries and other organizations in need of skilled volunteers.

The team I served on was charged with the responsibility of creating a more sustainable means for the Librarians Build Communities initiative to grow and flourish as opposed to tapering off between Emerging Leader classes. We successfully established a Member Initiative Group (MIG) for Librarians Build Communities and now each of my Emerging Leader teammates serve as a de facto steering committee for Librarians Build Communities.

While this project was not directly related to children or youth services, it is centered around the idea of helping build/restore communities, and any community’s most viable resource is its children, so in a roundabout way, I suppose, building communities through service and volunteerism is a good example to set for both children and children services providers.

Meet Dana Horrocks & Lindsey Krabbenhoft, Storytime Guerrillas of the Month

Ninjas, allow me to introduce our June Storytime Guerrillas of the Month: the wonderful librarians behind one of our favorite storytime resources, Jbrary.


Dana & Lindsey are the masterminds behind Jbrary, a comprehensive (and ever-growing) resource for storytime elements.

Dana & Lindsey are the masterminds behind Jbrary, a comprehensive (and ever-growing) resource for storytime elements.

Lindsey Krabbenhoft and Dana Horrocks work as auxiliary Children’s Librarians at the Vancouver Public Library. The two met while completing their MLIS at the University of British Columbia, which they finished up in April 2013. They started Jbrary as part of a socal media course and now keep busy sharing storytime songs and rhymes with anyone working with kids. When Dana’s not storytiming you can find her hiking, swimming, or beer in hand, nose deep in a book. You can follow Dana on Twitter at @danachorrocks. Lindsey enjoys playing and reading with her 3-year-old niece Sophie and tweeting obnoxiously cute photos of her 1-year-old nephew Blake at @lmkrabbenhoft.


Q: Complete the following sentence: “It’s not storytime until we…”


Dana: It’s not storytime until I have shared a genuine laugh with my group. Whether it comes through a book or a goofy moment with a song we’re singing, this is when I feel connected.

Lindsey: It’s not storytime until we sing Zoom, Zoom, Zoom! The kids go nuts over this song, and one mom even told me her daughter comes to storytime just to sing it. I’ve used it with babies, toddlers, and preschoolers and it has yet to fail me.


Q: You both have experience as substitute storytime leaders, which means showing up to lead storytimes with groups you’re unfamiliar with. How do you approach planning for storytime when you don’t know who will be in the room?


Dana: If I have the opportunity I usually try and touch base with the regular storytime leader to at least include their opening and closing routines. If this is impossible I try and plan as many familiar elements as I can to build trust and invite participation. It then becomes a fun opportunity to share yourself as well as learn from the group in terms of what storytime means to them, what song cannot be skipped, etc.

Lindsey: Like Dana says, I always try and connect with the usual storytime leader to learn a bit about his or her style and the usual components he or she includes. It’s really just to get a feel for what the group is used to (lots of puppets? flannel stories? longer or shorter books?). No matter what though, I fall back on my old teaching habit of over planning. I always bring more books than I need – in case they’ve read one of them recently – and have a variety of songs and rhymes to draw from. That way if I get a group who has an exceptional case of the wiggles, I’ve got some songs I can immediately pull out. Lastly, I try to remember to bring my strengths to storytime – it’s okay to offer them something a little different!


Q: What tip would you give to librarians who feel self-conscious about their singing voices/acting silly in front of grownups/etc.?


Dana: I don’t have any tips because I think this is something which strikes all of us from time to time but I think we owe it to the families we work with to dig deep and sing our hearts out in silly solidarity. Something which helps me with this is the fact that I am not much of singer and I can use this like a superpower to show families you don’t need to be a crooner to have fun and connect to music. I think about the fact that if we’re not having fun with literacy how the heck are we supposed to communicate just how awesome it is!?

Lindsey: Not to sound cliche, but let it goooooo! Honestly though, you have to forget about the adults in the room for a moment and just focus on the kids. They are the ones smiling up at you when you bust out a song like “Tooty Ta Ta.” And I think the adults in the room admire us for our ability to be confident in our singing or silliness even if we’re no Aretha Franklin. Some other tips include singing familiar songs that kids and caregivers are sure to know (your voice won’t stand out as much if everyone is singing with you) and try using recorded music in storytime that you can sing along with (your voice will mix with the music).


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Gettin’ silly with their storytime song demos!

Q: When you have a storytime problem, who/what do you turn to for advice or support? It can be a person, a blog, a website, a resource…


Dana: The interwebs! We have been so fortunate to join the online chorus of superstar storytimers and benefit from this on a daily basis. We will often put out questions on Twitter and Facebook and get awesome advice, or get linked to a blog post which holds our hands and shows us the way.

I also depend pretty heavily on my awesome co-workers. Anyone who has shared a workspace with me knows I love to chat things out and can be found bouncing ideas around in person or on the phone. It might be obvious, but I could also not survive without Lindsey. Our constant textersations are full of work chatter (among other things) and she is always inspiring me to try out new ideas and practices!

Lindsey: This question made me think a bit. When I need storytime resources – book suggestions, song and rhyme ideas, puppet advice – I go to the blogs that I know and love. But when I have a storytime problem, I’m more likely to go to a friend (Dana!) or my co-workers who I can talk it over with in person. I’m part of a team right now that serves a very high-needs area of Vancouver, and we rely on each other for advice and support that comes with the knowledge of our specific population of kids. My branch manager is a former Children’s Librarian and she is another source of encouragement and support because she has years of experience to draw from and she does a great job of helping me phrase things to caregivers in a way that maintains the relationship.